Most Reliable Motorcycle Engines [Chart & Video Guide ]

long lasting motorcycle type

Choosing the best engine for a motorcycle can be a daunting task. A potential buyer must consider several factors before settling down with one. If you’ve been searching for the best guide that explains all you need to get the best engine for your motorcycle, this piece is written for you. In this article, you will learn the different types of motorcycle engines and their pros and cons, helping you decide on the kind of engine you want.

Most Reliable and Long Lasting Engines Video:

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What Type of Engine Lasts Longest? See Below

Graph Chart Showing Engine Types:

Motorcycle EngineNumber of StrokesEngine DisplacementCooling System
Single Cylinder150-600Liquid/oil
Parallel Twin2175-1800Air
Triple2380-2300Liquid
Inline Four450-1500Liquid
Inline Six41600-6500Liquid
V-Twin4175-1800Air
V421645Liquid
Flat-Twin2175-1800Air
Flat-Four and Flat-Six41000-6500Air

Single-Cylinder Motorcycle Engines


The designs of the Single-Cylinder motorcycle engines are the simplest. They have low weight and are easy to maintain. Many of the most miniature street motorcycles, including 50-125cc, numerous 250cc, and all dirt bikes, use this power source. However, unexpectedly, numerous middle-weight naked, supermoto, and motorcycles up to 700cc have single-cylinder engines. If the motorcycle is above 700cc, there will be excess vibration. This is why there are no 1000cc Single-Cylinder motorcycle engines.


Pros


● Lightweight
● Simplest design
● Easy to maintain
● Cheap to repair
● High torque


Cons


● High vibrations at higher displacement
● Limited ability (can only take up to 700cc)
● The piston works too hard.


Parallel Twin Motorcycle Engines


Parallel twin motorcycle engines come with two cylinders positioned beside each other. Also, parallel-twin motorcycle engines are the smallest inline engines, often referred to as inline twin engines. Unlike V-twins, parallel-twin motorcycle engines share a similar cylinder block. They are usually transversely mounted within the frame. However, the cylinders are behind each other in a few motorcycles. Commuter motorcycles and smaller sportbikes are the ones that use parallel-twin motorcycle engines. But numerous middle-weight adventure bikes use this engine. This includes Triumph Thunderbird and BMF F850GS.


Pros


● Compact dimensions
● Affordable to produce and maintain
● Simplicity
● Excellent power delivery


Cons


● Average performance
● It still deals with vibration


Triple Motorcycle Engines


Triple motorcycle engines have three cylinders. They are also referred to as inline-triple or inline-three motorcycle engines. This is because their cylinders are arranged in a single row. Usually, these engines are transversely mounted within the frame. So, triple motorcycle engines are typically parallel-twin motorcycle engines but with an extra cylinder. The best advantage of these engines is that they are more portable than four-cylinder engines but operate more effortlessly than V-twin engines. However, they still have vibration issues. Because of how compact they are, triple motorcycle engines can be found in numerous middle-weight naked bikes and sportbikes. The biggest inline-triple motorcycle engine is 2294cc. It can be found in the Triumph Rocket III.

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Pros


● High-performance
● Perfect exhaust sound
● Compact size
● Excellent torque
● Lower vibration


Cons


● Lacks high-end power
● Not entirely free of vibration


Inline-Four Motorcycle Engines


Inline-four motorcycle engines feature a single-cylinder block with four parallel cylinders. They are usually mounted transversally within the bike’s frame. Inline-four motorcycle engines are incredibly wider than two and three-cylinder engines because of their design. The primary advantage of this engine layout is effortless power delivery and exceptional performance. You can find these engines in almost all Japanese naked and sportbikes. They are also used in numerous racing motorcycles. The most popular motorcycles with inline-four motorcycle engines are 600 to 1300cc sportbikes, which provide top speed and higher HP rates.


Pros


● Fast-revving
● Zero vibration
● Exceptional performance
● Well balanced
● Effortless power delivery


Cons


● High weight
● Lacks torque
● It consumes a lot of fuel
● Large dimensions
● Expensive to maintain
● High manufacturing costs.


Inline-Six Engines


Inline-six engines have the same designs as smaller inlines. However, they feature six cylinders instead of three or four. These six cylinders are positioned in a single row. The engines are typically mounted transversely, giving a fairly wide design. Inline-six motorcycle engines are rarely used due to their excessive weight and dimensions. Inline-six engines used to be in some iconic models in the past, such as the Kawasaki CBX1000 and Z1300. The machines were heavy, but they had amazing designs and exhaust sound. Today, some motorcycles such as the BMW K1600 still use inline-six engines. However, they are not as popular as they used to be.


Pros


● High performance
● Well balanced
● Effortless power delivery
● Zero vibration
● Fast-revving


Cons


● Numerous parts and complicated design
● Large overall dimensions
● High fuel consumption
● High maintenance costs
● High weight


V-Twin Motorcycle Engines


V-twin motorcycle engines have two cylinders that are angled toward each other. This means that the cylinders form a “V” shape. The most prevalent types of V-twin are the V-twin trans and V-twin long. Without any doubt, V-twin motorcycle engines are the most common motorcycle engines in the US. They can be found in numerous cruisers such as Indian and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. V-twin motorcycle engines provide unique exhaust sound and excellent low-end power.

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The cylinders of the V-twin trans design are parallel with the bike’s frame. The result is more overall compact dimensions. This makes the engine fit perfectly into the bike’s frame.
On the other hand, V-twin long motorcycle engines are mounted longitudinally. They are standard on the Moto Guzzi Models. V-twin long motorcycle engines are incredibly rare on the market.


Pros


● Long layout/narrow design
● Excellent torque
● Low center of gravity
● Distinctive exhaust sound


Cons


● Cooling problems on the rear cylinder
● Vibration
● It gives much less power than inline engines


V4 Motorcycle Engines


V4 motorcycle engines are a fusion of two V-twin engines. This means that they have four cylinders in a “V” position. Like inline-four power plants, V4 motorcycle engines give a lot of power. The major disadvantage of this design is the heavier weight and high manufacturing costs. Due to these factors, V4 motorcycle engines are not common. There are only some street-legal bikes that use the V4 motorcycle engines. This includes the legendary Ducati Panigale V4 and the Aprilia RSV4. However, some Honda bikes use these engines too.


Pros


● Compact size
● High-performance
● Unique exhaust sound
● Low vibration


Cons


● Complicated design
● High manufacture costs
● High maintenance costs
● Heavyweight


Flat-Twin Motorcycle Engines


Boxer motorcycle engines are often referred to as flat engines because of their designs. Boxer motorcycle engines have two, four, or six cylinders positioned horizontally. Flat-twin motorcycle engines have two horizontal cylinders placed on the two sides of the crankshaft. There are numerous advantages of boxer motorcycle engines. They include efficient air-cooling and a low center of gravity. Flat-twin motorcycle engines are not widely used. However, they can still be found in some BMW street bikes.


Pros


● Excellent torque and power
● Efficient air cooling
● Great balancing
● Low center of gravity


Cons


● Complicated design
● High manufacturing costs
● Limits the lean angle
● High maintenance costs


Flat-Four And Flat-Six Engines


Flat-four and flat-six motorcycle engines are also box engines like flat-twin. However, they have four or six cylinders, based on their designs. These engines provide the most effortless power delivery and operation. These engines can only be found in a few motorcycle models, usually the biggest touring bikes. The first Flat-Four motorcycle was released in 1975 through Honda’s GoldWing with a 1000cc boxer engine. Over time, the displacement of these bikes has significantly increased. A 1833cc flat-six engine powers the latest flagship GoldWing bikes.

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Pros


● Great balancing
● Effortless power delivery and operation
● Low center of gravity
● Excellent torque and power


Cons


● Complicated design
● Expensive to repair and maintain
● High Manufacturing Cost


What Is the Best Motorcycle Engine?


Based on the types of motorcycle engines we’ve highlighted, the best and most reliable motorcycle engines are the six-cylinder engines, particularly flat-six and inline-six. They deliver less power and operate at lower compression ratios than other motorcycle engines. These attributes lead to higher durability and reliability. These engines can be found in the largest touring bikes, such as the Honda GoldWing and some BMW touring bikes.
Numerous factors affect the reliability of motorcycle engines. Some important ones are;


● Engine’s complexity
● Numbers and layout of cylinders
● HP ratio
● Displacement
● Cooling system
● Quality and brand
● Compression ratio


When it comes to motorcycle engines, the general rule is that the more extreme and complicated the engine design is, the higher and lesser the manufacturing costs and reliability. This is why complex motorcycle engine designs are not popular. They have odd designs with numerous parts.
Concerning the prevalent designs, various layouts are built for multiple applications and purposes. For example, four-cylinder inline engines are specifically developed for optimal performance.

Most inline engines are found in sport touring bikes and the fastest sportbikes. These motorcycle engines have smaller pistons and higher compression that moves faster. Hence, they can operate at higher RPMs and provide the top speeds and highest power in each class. However, higher performance usually means less durability and reliability.

The best and most reliable motorcycle engines are the flat-six and inline-six configurations. They have six large displacement cylinders but still offer incredibly lower HP than other types of motorcycle engines.


Final Thoughts


When looking out for the best motorcycle engine, you must remember that engines with lower compression are more reliable and durable. The number of cylinders an engine has is also a determining factor. This is because most reliable motorcycle engines have six cylinders. This will help you determine the type of engine you want for your bike.